7:07 PM EDT, October 27, 2011
Running cross country is hard.
Running cross country at Miguel Lozano's level is much harder.
"He has the chance to be best that's come through here in 30 years," his coach, Chris Kowalewski said.
“I usually start my day running, and then I usually end my day running,” Miguel said. “It’s just a lifestyle.”
Miguel has already won the sectional and regional titles this season, under the watchful eye of Division I recruiters.
"With all great athletes, it really matters what's between the ears<” Kowalewski said. “And Miguel, he's one of those athletes who gets it."
But there are things Miguel has gone through that make running cross country look easy.
Make a hard run through the field look like a walk in the park.
"It's forced him to grow up pretty quickly,” Kowalewski said. “As a teen, it should be the good times. Going to prom, going to the dance, going to Friday night football games. But suddenly, you're having to deal with a lot of these really adult issues. And it's really forced him to take stock of what's important in his life."
The path Miguel has followed in his life took a hard turn one morning two years ago. It was the day of a race. But Miguel never made it out the door.
His sister, 12 years older, was dead.
“She lived in Kentucky,” Miguel said. “And I'd go down there every summer for like 2-3 weeks to visit her and stuff like that. The last time I saw her, she was like, bye, I love you.
“That was the last thing I heard from my sister."
Miguel dealt with it the only way a 16-year-old runner knows how.
"I'd just go out and run by myself,” he said. “For miles and miles. It was a good way to just get my mind off things."
Just as Miguel was learning how to cope with the loss of his sister, he was hit with another wave of terrible news.
"My sister passed away, and then a year later, I got testicular cancer,” he said. “So one thing on top of another."
Fortunately, they caught Miguel's cancer early. And after surgery, he came back to the team.
"He had to come back very slowly, he had to come back with a lot of limitations,” Kowalewski said. “We knew that he was almost two months behind everyone else."
Miguel still made it to state anyway. His training might have been impacted, but he was running on more than just that.
"I beat cancer, I can get through this," he recalled himself saying.
"I think going through the trials and battling through the cancer and battling through all the stuff that he's had to go through, it really kind of opens it up to them that everything is not given, and it can be taken away at any time," Kowalewski said. “So when he came back and he was healthy, it just made that desire so much more."
After cancer, running was given back. His sister will not be.
So as Miguel runs in this weekend's state meet - the final race of his high school career - he's running for another title. But also, something much more important.
"After my sister passed away, it legit did put a new light on it, it really puts a new purpose to it, why I run," Miguel said. "Sometimes it's in the back of my head that she's watching me. Somehow, some way."
Which makes all that hard running a little easier.
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